“You can’t tell a wine by its label. Or can you?”

written by Michael Oudyn

Glasses at Buellton tasting

Hundreds of wines await, so let’s grab a glass and… check out those labels!

After Paso Robles (see previous post) I was a little wined out. So I grabbed a glass and set out to savor… the labels. Here are four I found intriguing.  Some because of their catchy and original graphics.  Some because they were in some way true to the winery’s story and essence.  Some just tickled my fancy.   Here are excerpts from interviews with the winery´s representatives.

urban legend

URBAN LEGENDS CELLARS: Oakland, California

“I’m Marilee Shaffer. I’m part of the winemaking team at Urban Legends Cellars Winery in Oakland.”

“So Oakland is the urban part of the label. Is there a particular urban legend which goes with this particular label?”

“On the label you see one of the container frames you’ll find down on the Oakland water front which is where our winery is located.   There is an urban legend that George Lukas used them as the inspiration for the Imperial walkers in Star Wars 2.”


Snow walker from Star Wars

Snow walker from Star Wars

Well, check out the photos. What do you think of this urban legend?  But there is one urban trend which is indisputable; going urban can be a cheap way into the wine business. Urban Legend itself is “working on a shoestring in an industrial winery in the run-down Jack London district of Oakland.”  With a little help from various grants and tax breaks from the city, they have worked their way up from “bath-tub” winemaker to urban winemaker. After all, as founder/owner Steve Shaffer says, “The grapes don’t care where they’re made into wine.”


Lables from Buellton

FLYING GOAT CELLARS, Lompoc, California

“I am Norm Yost. I am the wine maker and head goat herder (a little wink.)”

“How did you come to name your winery Flying Goat?”

“ Years ago everybody on the West Coast and Oregon was naming their wineries after their kids. But hey, I didn’t have any children, so…I thought it would be kind of fun to name my winery after my own kids, my goats.” (Norm has two pet pygmy goats and used goats as “lawn mowers” at other wineries).  “And goats are playful, but stubborn (like me)…they had a goat house they used to jump off. And we want our wines to have the image of fun, enjoyment, and happiness…like our goats.”


Aridus family

Aridus Wine Company, a family company


“Which is located in the state of… Arizona”

“And that is a fascinating thing, because I had my very first Arizona wine, a Viognier, I believe…What grapes are normal in Arizona?”

“Tempranillo is great here and Petite Syrah which might be the grape of the future in Arizona.”

“You say the problem in Arizona isn’t the heat, but the frost?”

“Yes, because the sun causes the bud break to happen early, in early to mid March…We are at 1500 feet, so there is a chance of frost after bud break.”

“How many wineries are there in Arizona?”

“There were 57 last week but there are lots of new wineries every week…it’s a growth industry.”

With vineyard llamas still on my mind, I asked about animal pests in their vineyards.

“Deer and birds can eat the grapes…our neighbors have distressed bird calls that are like the sound of birds dying. They keep the birds away. Except the crows who are too smart.”



And the label? Basically empty, arid. Parched, cracked soil?  So true to the name of the winery, Aridus, and the small desert town of Wilcox, and maybe the state of Arizona (Arid zone?) Maybe a bit of a stretch, but I love the idea of wine from Arizona and the family does a great interview.



Grassini Family Vineyards_Bottles-0

GRASSINI FAMILY VINEYARDS: Santa Barbara, California

All bottles are hand-signed by some member of the family. (You can just make out the autographs at the bottom of the bottles).  A very upscale touch for very  limited-production upscale wines.

Well, my personal favorite, and the winner of the first annual “Best Wine Label: Wine Bloggers 2014.”  is…


Flying goat bubbles.cremat

Goats celebrating their victory.

While the vineyards goats are celebrating their victory I can picture my friends nodding  knowingly. They know I have a thing for goats; these beasts fog my judgment. The smart money would have suspected the competition was rigged. The smart money would have been right.


One Response to ““You can’t tell a wine by its label. Or can you?””

  1. Phil Jones Says:

    Entertaining as usual.

    Pesky animals: Years ago I helped a Maryland vintner harvest his grapes for Mowbray Wines, which I don’t think exists anymore. The owner was a retired prof at Johns Hopkins. His pest was pheasants. So he waited with his shot gun.

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